You can’t have escaped the news that coronavirus is here. The situation is fast moving and guidance is constantly changing.
We previously blogged that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had announced that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) would be payable to employees from day 1 rather than day 4 of absence. The budget of 11 March also introduced a number of measures to help both individuals and businesses get through what may well be a difficult few weeks and months.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Eligibility
The budget set out a package to widen the scope of SSP payable as a result of the coronavirus. It will apply not only to those with diagnosed COVID-19 but also to:
- individuals who are unable to work as they have been advised to self-isolate
- people caring for those within the same household who display COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate
Employers should maintain records of staff absences but should not require employees to provide a GP fit note.
SSP Refunds for Employers
Support is being made available for employers with under 250 employees who pay COVID-19 related SSP to their staff. The employer will be able to claim a refund of eligible SSP, limited to two weeks per employee. It is worth noting that this is something that is entirely new and the system is not set up for this so it will not be automatic. New systems will need to be put in place to claim the refund, so the cash flow impact of the refund may well be delayed.
What about the Self Employed and Lower Earners?
Those that are not entitled to SSP due to being self employed or earning below the National Insurance Lower Earnings Limit will be able to claim some support via a “new style” Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit. While this is of course welcome, given the problems that already exist within the Universal Credit system, individuals should not rely on this support being particularly quick to materialise.
Tax Debts and Time To Pay
Time to Pay gives businesses a time-limited deferral period on tax liabilities and a pre-agreed time period to pay these back. The government has pledged to ensure that those in financial distress with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs. HMRC have set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline on 0800 0159 559 where businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to coronavirus can discuss instalment arrangements and suspending debt collection proceedings.
Business Rates Cuts
To support small businesses through the coronavirus outbreak the business rates retail discount for properties with a rateable value below £51,000 will be increased to 100% for 2020/21, and will be expanded to include hospitality and leisure businesses as these are likely to suffer financially due to coronavirus. In addition there will be a £5,000 discount for pubs with a rateable value below £100,000.
What Measures Can Businesses Take?
As a business you are likely to be affected over the coming months by coronavirus. Financially you need to consider your cash flow and where necessary talk to lenders to arrange additional finance. You may find that your customers are reluctant to spend during this uncertain time. Or you might be lucky and be in the toilet roll or pasta business so your orders will be flooding in!
As an employer you may need to manage significant staff absences – estimates are that up to 20% of the workforce will be absent from work at any one time. This can be mitigated by ensuring all workstations are clean and staff are provided with and encouraged to use hand soap and antibacterial gel (if you can get any!). Where practical you may be able to encourage more home-working and telephone/internet meetings rather than face to face.
We will of course keep you updated with any further developments regarding how coronavirus might affect your businesses. If you have any queries please give us a call.
And remember…. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds!
Katie Kettle – Technical Manager